Tuesday, 16 February 2010


My knees are shot to smithereens, battered to a pulp, and that’s just from sitting on the sofa. Having to watch the Men’s Downhill is nothing short of exhausting.

I promise I will talk about something other than skiing in the very near future, but for now, what with the Winter Olympics being on in Vancouver, and what with Norway having won more medals at the WO’s than any other nation in the history of the games, I have to get some of this off my chest.

When it comes to downhill, I watch very, very closely. I might as well have been in Vancouver. I could feel every bump of that course, every little shoogly bit, every nuance, every little teaser that piste had to offer. What’s more, I was fiendishly jealous of those guys, over taken by an urge to join in and ski that heavenly long run myself. They were making it look pimps, after all....fast but pimps. (That’s the trouble with downhillers...we like to flatter ourselves, but the telly makes steep slopes a good deal less steep than they really are.) Anyway, one way and another, I was with them right down to the finish line. And now I’m whacked, my thighs are aching, I need to soak in a hot bath.

I know I’m now officially a ‘langrenn’ convert, but that does not mean I’ve lost my downhill legs. When I see a guy giving it laldy in the downhill, I do not just sit around. I’m there. And when the Norwegian decided to take the lead for a while, I was very, very nervous on his behalf.

‘Aksel’ I yelled at the telly. ‘Go’on yersel.’ He MUST have heard, because he was going great guns down the Toilet Bowl and he belted down the Weasel, but he sped up marvellously as he ‘took big air’ over Boyd’s Chin and Murray’s Hope.

Of course there was a Brit in the race too, Mr Ed Drake of Tooting, a fine specimen of a skier if ever I saw one. But he wasn’t in the running for a medal, so naturally I plumped for Aksel Lund Svindal, living proof that the Norwegians can shine in downhill, even if cross-country is their natural habitat. And why would anyone be surprised by that? They have snow, they have mountains. It’s Jo Obvious.

In the 1870’s, after 4000 years of skiing with ski bindings which let the skier’s heel lift off the ski, an extremely famous bloke from Telemark, Sondre Norheim, started to use stiff bindings that allowed him to swing, jump and generally nip about like a ballet-dancer without his skis falling off. A few years later, Norwegian students living in the Alps started larking about instead of studying, and soon they had introduced skiing to the locals. By the turn of the century, Chamonix, which had previously been a base for British mountaineers, was awash with Norwegians sliding downhill on a variety of implements.

It caught on. In 1924, it was Chamonix that hosted the first Winter Olympics. And it just so happened that the first four places in the 50K race that year were won by Norwegians.

Incidentally, Aksel, who’d skied before the sun came out and made the piste easier to read, ended up with the silver medal. Swiss Didier Defago beat him by 7 hundredths of a second. Maybe ‘pimps’ was an understatement.


  1. I watched too...when local hero Robbie Dixon fell, both Madeline and I burst into tears. Funny to be so emotional over someone we had just learned about in the previous 30 minutes. We hoped that he would win on 'his' hill. He grew up skiing there with his parents, and grandparents. I have skied that downhill course at Whistler, though at a much less exciting pace and intensity, and with a much smaller crowd (Shawn) watching.

  2. Hey JMK.We cried at Robbie's fall and we're not even Canadian. Poor guy! Jealous you skied that run. And impressed.

  3. I'm totally exhausted ( and if truth be told a little exhilarated) ... simply reading your account! Have you ever thought of becoming a BBC Ski Sunday commentator ... perhaps a new career beckons? Now where's my wax is is red or purple this evening ...... !!

  4. Did you see the ladies downhill today...the crashes! The Swede flew a good 80 to 90 metres before landing, and sliding across the finish line.

  5. That was wild. And SO much harder than the Men's downhill. Brave girls ! And now I'm a Vonn fan....Vonntastic!

  6. Returning Scot

    I so look forward to you writing about the men's 10.000m speed skating race in Vancouver. If 13.30,55 - 15.46,6 - or even 16.32,6 means anything to you, you will write about it.....

  7. Tor...I didn't see it but will look it up, and try and work out those times you mention. Speed-skating is an event I won't be entering myself into any time soon